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Potomak Guardian


West Virginia’s first newspaper, the Potowmac Guardian, and Berkeley Advertiser, was issued in Shepherdstown in November 1790 by Nathaniel Willis (1755–1831). The earliest known issue is dated June 27, 1791. Sometime after November 14, 1791, the date of the last known Shepherdstown issue, Willis moved to Martinsburg, resuming publication by April 3, 1792. He changed the name of the newspaper to the Potomak Guardian, and Berkeley Advertiser by the February 23, 1795 issue, then shortened it to the Potomak Guardian on February 1, 1798.

More than a printer, Willis was a journalist with strong interests in politics and current affairs. His views were staunchly Jeffersonian Republican, and his attacks on local Federalists resulted in ill feelings culminating in physical retaliation and vandalism. When his apprentice established a rival newspaper, the Berkeley Intelligencer, Willis decided to quit. Armstrong Charlton became publisher October 30, 1799, and continued the Potomak Guardian through at least January 8, 1800, the last issue known.

Written by Harold Malcolm Forbes


  1. Rice, Otis K. West Virginia Printers and their Work, 1790-1830. West Virginia History, July 1953.